1 Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness. 3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. 4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. 5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. 8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in His temple all cry, “Glory!” 10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. 11 The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.
1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day. 3 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. 4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 6 Splendour and majesty are before Him; strength and glory are in His sanctuary. 7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come into His courts. 9 Worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth. 10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity. 11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; 12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; 13 they will sing before the Lord, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His truth.
We began last week by looking at the basic structure of the Lord’s Prayer. It is divided into two sets of three elements. In the first part, the prayer focusses on God and His nature. The prayer begins with three petitions or declarations: “Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The second half of the prayer deals with our needs such as our daily bread, sins and temptation. It’s been said that the Lord’s Prayer covers everything we need in the past, present and in the future. At our monthly men’s fellowship yesterday morning, one of our “Salt Pots” said that he uses the Lord’s Prayer as a skeleton or a model for his own prayers. It is a good thing for us to pray the prayer just as Jesus taught us, but we can also use its basic design or structure as a model when we bring our own needs and concerns to Him too.
And we began our series last Sunday by looking at the amazing opening statement of the prayer: “Our Father, who art in heaven.” By the grace of God, we as sinners are invited to call Almighty God “our Father,” and we are able to come to Him in prayer at any time. God listens. He cares for us, He hears our prayers and He answers them. What a privilege we have to come to our Father in prayer.
If you were to ask Christians to define prayer in one sentence, most would answer something along these lines: It is talking to and communicating with God.
That’s a pretty good definition, but do we really pray that way? What I mean is that most of us tend to focus more on how prayer works, rather than its purpose. In other words, we sometimes use prayer as an emergency last resort after we have tried doing everything we can to solve our problems. Whether we do so intentionally or not, so much of our prayers have become a means of asking or telling God what He should be doing for us.
Now of course, the Bible encourages us to cry out to God when we are in trouble. He is, after all, our refuge and fortress. We can ask Him for His guidance for particular concerns, daily struggles and our ambitions. But we must be careful of using prayer as a tool in order to get our own way. Is praying for a sick person to be healed a selfish prayer? Of course not. Is praying for guidance when facing a difficult situation or decision selfish? No it isn’t, but there is a line that we can and do cross at times, because we are selfish by nature. Part of our prayer conversation with God should be that He would teach us where that line is, and that we should seek His will rather than ours, but we’ll get into that in a couple of weeks when we look at the phrase “Thy will be done.”
Prayer is essentially a conversation between God and us. In prayer, we are able to share anything with our Father in heaven. We cannot over-emphasise just how great a privilege it is for us to be in the presence of God through prayer.
Today we consider the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “Hallowed be Thy name.” Firstly, the word “hallowed” in Greek means much the same as the word holy. The word “holy” in English means to separate or set apart so the phrase to hallow something means to set apart something sacred. So when we pray “Hallowed be Thy name,” we are praying that God Himself would be kept holy in our own hearts. We begin the prayer by not only acknowledging His holiness, but by asking Him to remind us of that part of His nature as well. Too easily we forget just who He is and what He is like, so this first petition reminds us of who He is and what He is like. Matthew Henry writes in his commentary, “We give glory to God; it may be taken not as a petition, but as an adoration; as that, the Lord be magnified, or glorified, for God’s holiness is the greatness and glory of all His perfections. We must begin our prayers with praising God, and it is very fit He should be first served, and that we should give glory to God, before we expect to receive mercy and grace from Him. Let Him have praise of His perfections, and then let us have the benefit of them.”
Because we’re so familiar with this prayer we miss so much of its deeper details. A good example of this is hallowed be Thy name. Why is the word name used when proclaiming the holiness of God? Because names of people in Biblical times were significant. They meant something. In the Bible, a person’s name normally described the character of the person. For example, Abraham means “father of nations” or “father of many.” He later became the father of many descendants. Jacob means “deceiver” which described perfectly his character in his younger years. Simon had his name changed to Peter, which means “rock.” His faith in Jesus as the Christ is the foundation of the Church.
The names of God are also to be respected and honoured in our daily lives. The Third Commandment says, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.”
God has many names in the Bible. Jehovah-Jireh is the Lord who provides. Jehovah-Shalom is the Lord of our peace. In Isaiah 9:6 He is “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” In the New Testament Jesus is called the Christ, Lord, Master, the Word, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David, Lamb of God, Light of the World, King of the Jews, and there are many more. The list goes on, but the point is that it is not just the name or names of God that must be hallowed, but rather the very nature and character of God must be hallowed and set apart as holy in our hearts and minds.
The names of God reveal who He is and describe His character.
We know the story of David and Goliath very well. The people of Israel were in a war with the Philistines. Goliath the Philistine stood in front of the armies of Israel, and for forty days, he taunted and threatened them, but none of the Israelite soldiers was prepared to go out and fight him because he was so big and powerful. David though, was different. In 1 Samuel 17:45 he says to Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” David was prepared to go out and fight Goliath for the sake of the name of God. Jesus had yet to teach us this prayer, but David understood that he had to hallow the name of God. The real source of his victory was not the stone David used, but it was his courage and bravery as he was not prepared to allow the name of God to be dishonoured. The First Commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Throughout the history of the Church Christians have been persecuted for hallowing God’s name. Some were thrown to the lions because they refused to honour the Roman emperor above God. Even today Christians are dying because they understand what it really means to honour the name of God above all others. We pray very easily and very comfortably “Hallowed be Thy name”, but do we really understand just what we’re saying?
Now I’m not saying we should pray for or seek out persecution, but we do need to ask ourselves to what extent we honour or hallow the name and nature of God in our own lives. The secular world has rejected God, and sadly the Church too has lost much of the fear and reverence of God. Yes, He is a God of grace and mercy. Amen to that, and I thank God that He is merciful and longsuffering with me, because I know and He knows just how much of His mercy I need every day. But I think that modern Christians today focus too much on just that aspect of God’s character. We forget too easily that because of His perfect holiness He cannot and will not tolerate sin. He is a jealous God and one day His wrath will be poured out on those who reject Jesus and the saving power of His blood. Proverbs 11:21 says, “The wicked will not go unpunished,” and there are many more verses that say the same thing.
There have been many surveys done over the years comparing the behaviour and lifestyles of Christians to that of the general population, and it is frightening how many of them show little or no difference between the two groups.
Paul writes in Romans 6:1-2, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” And in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 he says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.” 1 Peter 1:13-16 says, “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” I could go on, but I hope you get the point. We are called to and commanded to live holy lives. This means much more than simply saying over and over again, “Hallowed be Thy name.”
We’re quick to complain that God is no longer acknowledged or revered in our schools and in parliament. We would all agree that God’s name is not being hallowed today. But it starts with us who should know better.
So how do we hallow God’s name and restore His reputation in the modern world? By being the salt and light Jesus has called us to be. Do we honour God and His name in our words and our behaviour? I’ve said this often in the past – non-Christians will base their opinions on who God is and what He is like from the example they see in the lives of Christians. Are we being Christlike? How are we portraying the changes that God has made in our lives? Are we doing it at all?
In J Vernon McGee’s commentary on the Lord’s Prayer he writes, “In what way can you and I make God’s name holy? It is my conviction that by our lives we are to make God’s name holy. When Abraham went into Canaan, a Canaanite passing by observed that they had a new neighbour, for he had seen Abraham’s altar. Everywhere Abraham went he built an altar to God. And when Abraham began to do business with the Canaanites, they found him to be honest. They found that everything Abraham said invited their confidence. Finally, they reached the conclusion that the God whom Abraham worshipped was a holy God, and Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in everything you do.’ The entire life of Abraham revealed the reverence he felt for God. Surely the name of God was made holy in Canaan because of Abraham.”
We’ve looked at the story of the Israelites finally crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land before. This is what Joshua said to the leaders of each of the tribes after the people had crossed over: “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:5-7) As Abraham built altars and as the tribes placed standing stones on the western bank of the Jordan River, so are we to be living monuments of the holiness of God. That is how we are able to hallow His name.
In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul calls us Christ’s ambassadors. And by hallowing God’s holy name in our words and behaviour, we are being effective ambassadors of God’s grace.
We have the privilege but also the responsibility to hallow God’s name and to live changed lives.
Today, being the first Sunday of the month is our Holy Communion service. In the prayers just before the bread is broken we ask that God would set apart and sanctify these common elements of bread and wine from all common use to this holy use and mystery. This doesn’t mean that something magical happens to the bread and wine, but rather that God by His Spirit would use them as we share in Communion to remind us of what He has done in Jesus, and also that He would reinforce the promises of eternity in our hearts and minds. The bread and juice we use at Communion, the word that is preached, the prayers that are prayed, the hymns and songs that are sung are all anointed and sanctified for God’s glory. Even the cup of tea you drink and the chat you have with friends after the service – all of these things we do and participate in are opportunities to glorify God, to hallow His holy name.
But it goes beyond just the hour or so we spend at Church on Sundays. Our worship is not just done on Sundays, but also is presented to God as a living sacrifice every day. When God says we are to be holy because He is holy, He doesn’t just mean for an hour a week, but out there where it really matters, where we are able to make a real difference in the world. Remember, if God is to become relevant once more in the secular world it has to begin with us. There is no checklist with the words “Hallowed be Thy name.” His name is to be hallowed in every part of our lives. If Christians took the name of God more seriously, the people who don’t care about God and have chosen to reject Him will notice. Each and every day we have new opportunities to hallow the holy name of God.
Homegroup Study Notes
What do you understand by the phrase “Hallowed be Thy name?”
In which ways do you think we tend to use prayer as a means to an end, rather than just as a means in itself?
In other words, how do we use prayer to try and get God to do what we want, rather than just enjoy the gift of prayer?
This is the first petition or request in the Lord’s Prayer.
What is the significance in seeking the glory of God first?
Discuss this quote from Matthew Henry, and how it teaches us to focus firstly on God: “We give glory to God; it may be taken not as a petition, but as an adoration; as that, the Lord be magnified, or glorified, for God’s holiness is the greatness and glory of all His perfections. We must begin our prayers with praising God, and it is very fit He should be first served, and that we should give glory to God, before we expect to receive mercy and grace from Him. Let Him have praise of His perfections, and then let us have the benefit of them.”
In what ways do you think our prayers can be worldly or focused on ourselves, rather than on God?
What is the significance in praying that God’s name be hallowed or glorified in this prayer?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:20-21
Discuss the role we have as ambassadors of God, and how we are to use this privilege to hallow the name of God.
Next week: “Thy Kingdom Come.”